Silencing science tracker expanded to include state and local government actions

September 25, 2018 by Romany Webb, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Silencing science tracker expanded to include state and local government actions
Breakdown of Silencing Science Tracker entries by actor. Credit: Columbia University

In January, Columbia's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund launched the Silencing Science Tracker (SST). As its name suggests, the SST records government attempts to prevent or restrict scientific research, education, or discussion since the November 2016 election. Initially, the SST only recorded anti-science behavior within the federal government, of which we have 161 examples. That does not, however, reflect the full extent of the "war on science" as numerous anti-science actions are also being taken by state and local governments. To increase awareness of those actions, we have expanded the SST, adding state and local government attempts to censor, misrepresent, or otherwise stifle science.

As of Monday, September 24, the expanded SST lists 257 anti-science actions taken by actors since the November 2016 election. Of those actions, 63 percent (161) were taken by the , and 37 percent (96) by state and . Unsurprisingly, many of the state and local government actions are concentrated in just a handful of areas, which have a long-history of anti-science . Florida leads the way with 10 entries, followed by Texas and Wisconsin with 7 each, and then Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Oklahoma with 5 each. It would, however, be a mistake to think that anti-science behavior is limited to a small number of "rogue" states. On the contrary, such behavior has occurred in at least 38 since November 2016, including many often thought of as leaders on scientific issues, such as California and Vermont.

At both the state and federal levels, much anti-science behavior has centered on , with 70 percent of all SST entries targeting climate scientists.

Silencing science tracker expanded to include state and local government actions
Breakdown of Silencing Science Tracker entries by state. Credit: Columbia University

The entries fall into seven broad categories. The "government censorship" category currently includes the most entries, accounting for approximately 29 percent of the total. Many of the entries relate to changes to government websites to remove references to "climate change" (see here for an example). Of late, however, this has been far more common within the federal government than at the state level. (We have only identified one example—in Wisconsin—of references to "climate change" being removed from state websites since November 2016.) However, state governments have sought to restrict access to information about climate change in other ways, including through "interference with education," which accounts for over 10 percent of all SST entries. Both state and federal government actors also commonly engage in "bias and misrepresentation," with many suggesting that climate change is a "hoax," and/or questioning its causes and effects.

Unfortunately, there is little indication that these attacks on science will subside in the near future. For as long as they occur, we will record them in the SST.

Explore further: US should take steps to manage costly climate risks: report

Related Stories

Judge: Opioid distribution data not for public consumption

July 27, 2018

A federal judge has ruled that state and local governments cannot publicize federal government data about where prescription opioids were distributed—a blow to news organizations seeking to report more deeply on the nation's ...

Recommended for you

Oceans of garbage prompt war on plastics

December 15, 2018

Faced with images of turtles smothered by plastic bags, beaches carpeted with garbage and islands of trash floating in the oceans, environmentalists say the world is waking up to the need to tackle plastic pollution at the ...

A damming trend

December 14, 2018

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences—affecting everything from food security to the environment—greatly outweigh the positive ...

Data from Kilauea suggests the eruption was unprecedented

December 14, 2018

A very large team of researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. has concluded that the Kilauea volcanic eruption that occurred over this past summer represented an unprecedented volcanic event. In their paper published ...

The long dry: global water supplies are shrinking

December 13, 2018

A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 25, 2018
This is a good beginning towards exposing the criminal conspiracies and subversive infiltration into government agencies.

Of course now we have to listen to the paid deniers squawking about how their fake facts should be allowed to freely subvert Public opinion.

Actually, I wouldn't object to an honest debate, But the corrupt will continue their poisonous efforts to silence any criticism of their masters. To prevent those who profit from destroying the Earth's environment, to never be held accountable for their criminal behavior.
1 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2018
Among other things, consider the issue of just how much "science" there is out there to be at war with!
Look at every marquee for Phys Org, for example, and you'll always find at least one article about facts about some area being "not what was expected" or "different from what was claimed"! Pluto was demoted from a planet because of apparently unreliable material in a book from the beginning of the 19th Century! And no one was told that was the "source" for demoting Pluto! And the fact remains that between 50% and 90% of all examined articles in "peer reviewed" "science" journals provide irreproducible "results"! "Science", it seems can't get anything right!
And the only thing "science" devotees come up with is, when results don't pan out, "science" changes its mind. Face it, it can be far more helpful if it produced the right result the first time!
not rated yet Sep 26, 2018
gosh jp, considering your intent is to peddle superstitious nonsense to the gullible?

You might self-examine your own motives at blindly accepting unverified versions of officially dictated interpretations of mediocre translations of prehistoric ignorance.

The greatest difference between theocracy and Science ? Is that scientists at least. make an effort to learn from their mistakes. Persevere through the embarrassment to accomplish progress.

Religions are fossils. Coprolite to be exact. They eventually erode away, Too dumb to confront their own errors and accept that they need to change as society evolves.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.